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Impending doctor shortage could lead to longer wait times, shuttered clinics

Mayo Clinic study finds one in five doctors intend to leave their practice altogether in the next two years.

A new Mayo Clinic study found that one in five physicians plan to leave medicine altogether and even more plan to reduce their hours.

The study was conducted among 20,665 respondents at 124 institutions. Some professionals, like Dr. Randy Rice, are calling it "medicine's great resignation."

"This is really something that's been going on and we've been seeing significant warning signs for three to five years," said Dr. Rice, a physician for nearly 30 years. He's also the president of the Minnesota Medical Association.

The American Medical Association is going even further, predicting there will be upwards of nearly 125,000 fewer doctors within 12 years.

Dr. Rice blames too much red tape, pandemic burnout and a push for more personal time and fewer patients.

Some doctors are now even considering early retirement, including Dr. Rice.

"In the past, a lot of times, physicians kept going into their late 60s and even 70s and I don't hear many wanting to do that anymore," said Dr. Rice. "We obviously need to work on building up the workforce because we can stretch maybe a little bit more time out of those of us nearing retirement, but we really need the young folk to come to work."

Dr. Rice is currently working at a clinic 120 miles north of the Twin Cities in Moose Lake, a rural area he worries is at greater risk.

In fact, the Center for Healthcare Quality and Payment Reform (CHQPR), a national policy center that supports affordable healthcare, found this year that 16% of Minnesota's rural hospitals are at risk of closing. 

"That will leave holes especially in some of the rural areas where there won’t be enough physicians there, so people will either have to wait much longer or travel farther in some cases if they can't keep clinics open," said Dr. Rice.

The study does show there are steps organizations can take to retain, and recruit, employees and that includes making them feel more valued. 

"I think giving physicians within systems the respect and autonomy that they deserve goes a long way to keeping them willing to keep working," said Dr. Rice. 

To combat burnout, the study also suggests providing adequate PPE, mental health services and a reduction in workload. 

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